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Updated 3:00 PM October 12, 2005




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U-M receives $18.7M to create biomedical informatics center

As researchers in the biological sciences increasingly rely on computers to obtain relevant knowledge from the torrent of biomedical data being generated, the Medical School has received an $18.7-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to begin imposing order on the myriad sources of biologic data.

The five-year grant will fund a new National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics (NCIBI), with the goal of integrating genomic and molecular biology information into disease or biological models. One of seven National Centers for Biomedical Computing funded by the NIH, NCIBI is expected to operate for at least 10 years.

"The NCIBI award positions the University of Michigan and its partners at the center of the NIH Roadmap's vision for a national networked computational infrastructure for biomedical computing," says Brian D. Athey, the grant's principal investigator; director of the Michigan Center for Biological Information; and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

"It is an honor for the NCIBI to be entrusted by the NIH with the opportunity to provide such great potential to help accelerate biomedical research discoveries and potential treatments."

The NCIBI will develop a framework of conceptual models, computational infrastructure and integrated knowledge repository that modern scientists need in order to make effective use of the wealth of data flowing from molecular biology and translational research

Through research and development that focuses on biomedical information integration, the NCIBI will help maximize the impact of computational technology developed in the center and facilitate the work of many NIH-supported scientists nationally.

Ultimately, the goal of the NCIBI is to improve human health. By examining large-scale molecular information about a disease, scientists make discoveries about basic mechanisms that can help in designing further laboratory and clinical studies.

The NCIBI will start work on four driving biological problems—prostate cancer, bipolar depression, diabetes type I and diabetes type II.

"This grant recognizes the high level of expertise in computational biology and bioinformatics at the University of Michigan. It will help build more research collaborations among the U-M schools and colleges," says Dr. Raymond Ruddon, senior associate dean of research and graduate studies, and professor, Department of Pharmacology.

The grant is part of a cooperative agreement between U-M and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which has programmatic oversight of the National Centers for Biomedical Computing, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Library of Medicine.

"At Michigan and with collaborators around the country, we are developing experimental, computational, and clinical tools to make progress toward predictive, personalized, and preventive health care for better patient outcomes and a more cost-effective healthcare system," says Dr. Gilbert Omenn, professor of internal medicine, human genetics and public health.

Athey, Omenn, H.V. Jagadish, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Dr. David States, professor of bioinformatics and human genetics, are NCIBI senior scientific directors. A. Christyne Bliton is the NCIBI program manager.

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